Charlotte Mary Yonge.

The trial: More links of the daisy chain (Volume 1) online

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" I am not afraid of that," said Flora, something in her
eye belying her ; " but she might be troublesome to Harry,
and I had rather he did not see one of her fights with Miss

" How has she been ? I thought her looking clearer and
better to-day," said Ethel, kindly.

"Yes, she is pretty well just now," said Flora, allowing
herself in one of her long deep sighs, before descending
into the particulars of the child's anxiously -watched health.
If she had been describing them to her father, there would
have been the same minuteness, but the tone would have
implied cheerful hope ; whereas to Ethel she took no pains
to mask her dejection. One of the points of anxiety was
whether one shoulder were not outgrowing the other, but


it was not easy to discover whether the appearance were
not merely owing to the child's feeble and ungainly carriage.
"I cannot torment her about that," said Flora. *' There are
enough, miseries for her already without making more, and as
long as it does not affect her health, it matters little."

" 'No, certainly not," said Ethel, who had hardly expected
this from Flora.

Perhaps her sister guessed her thought, for she said,
" Things are best as they are, Ethel ; I am not fit to have
a beautiful admired daughter. All the past would too easily
come over again, and my poor Margaret's troubles may be the
best balance for her."

'' Yes," said Ethel, " it is bad enough to be an heiress, but
a beautiful heiress is in a worse predicament."

" Health would improve her looks," began the maternal
instinct of defence, but then breaking off. "^Ve met Lord

H yesterday, and the uniform is to be like the northern

division. Papa will hear it officially to-morrow."

" The northern has grey, and green facings."

" You are more up in it than I. All we begged for was,
that it might be inexpensive, for the sake of the towns-

" I hear of little else," said Ethel, laughing ; " Dr. Spencer
is as hot on it as all the boys. !N"ow, I suppose, your party
is to come off ? "

" Yes, it ought," said Flora, languidly ; " I waited to see
how Harry was, he is a great element towards making it go
off well. I "vvill talk it over with Blanche ; it will give some-
body pleasure if she thinks she manages it."

" Will it give George no pleasure ? "

" I don't know ; he calls it a great nuisance, but he would


not like not to come forward, and it is quite right that he

" Quite right," said Ethel; "it is every one's duty to try
to keep it up."

With these words the sisters came within sight of the
targets, and found Margaret under Harry's charge, much
interested, and considerably iu the way. The tidings of
the colour of the uniform were highly appreciated ; Aubrey
observed that it would choke off the snobs who only wanted
to be like the rifle brigade, and Leonard treated its inexpen-
siveness as a personal matter, ha\ang apparently cast off his
doubts, under Hector's complimentary tuition. Indeed, before
it grew too dark for taking aim, he and the weapon were so
thoroughly united, that no further difficulty remained but of
getting out his thanks to jMr. Ernescliffe.

Averil was sitting alone over the fire in the twilight, in a
somewhat forlorn mood, when the door was pushed ajar, and
the muzzle of a gun entered, causing her to start up in alarm,
scarcely diminished by the sight of an exultant visage, though
the words were, " Your money or your life."

" Leonard, don't play with it, pray ! "

" It's not loaded."

*' Oh ! but one never can tell : " then, half ashamed of her
terror, "pray put it back, or we shall have an uproar with

"This is none of Henry's. He will never O'wn such a
beauty as this."

" AVhose is it ? Xot your's ? Is it really a rifle ? H. E. ?
What's that ? "

" Hector Ernescliffe ! Didn't I tell you he was a princely


" Given it to you 1 Leonard, dear, I am so happy ! Xow
I don't care for an}i)liing ! "What a gallant volunteer you
will make ! " and she kissed him fondly. " TVe will order
the uniform as soon as ever it is settled, and I hope it will
be a very handsome one."

" It will be a cheap one, which is more to the purpose. I
could get part myself, only there's the tax for Mab, and the
subscription to the cricket club."

" I would not have you get any of it ! You are m2/ volun-
teer, and I'll not give up my right to any one, except that
Minna and Ella want to give your belt."

" Where are those children ? " he asked.

" Henry has taken them to Laburnum Grove, where I am
afraid they are being crammed with cake and all sorts of

" What could have made him take them there ? "

" Oh ! some wish of ]\Irs. Pugh's to see the poor little dears,"
said Averil, the cloud returning that had been for a moment

" What's the row 1 " asked Leonard, kindly. " Has he been
bothering you ? "

" He wants me to sound j\Iary May about an invitation for
Mts. Pugh to ^Irs. Eivers's volunteer entertainment. I am
glad I did not say no one in mourning ought to go, for I
must go now you are a volunteer."

" But you didn't consent to mention her ? "

" No, indeed ! I knew very well you would say it was a
most improper use to make of the Mays' kindness, and I can't
see what business she has there ! Then he said, no, she was
certain not to go, but the attention would be gratifying and


"That is Mrs. Eivers's look-out."

" So I said, but Henry never will hear reason. I did not
tell you of our scene yesterday over the accounts ; he says
that we must contract our expenses, or he shall be ruined ;
so I told him I was ready to give up the hot-house, or the
footman, or the other horse, or anything he would specify ;
but he would not hear of it — he says it would be fatal to alter
our style of living, and that it is all my fault for not being
economical ! Leonard, it is very hard to give up all
one cared for to this housekeeping, and then never to
please ! "

Leonard felt his brother a tyrant. "J^ever mind, Ave
dear," said he, "go on doing right, and then you need not
care for his unreasonableness. You are a dear good girl, and
I can't think how he can have the heart to vex you."

"I dorCt care while I have you, Leonard," she said,
clinging to him.

At that moment the others were heard returning, and an
ironical look passed between the brother and sister at certain
injunctions that were heard passing about the little India-
rubber goloshes ; but Henry had returned in high good
humour, was pleased to hear of his brother's good fortune,
pronounced it very handsome in Mr. Ernescliffe, and even
offered to provide the rest of the equipment ; but this was
proudly rejected by Averil, with some of the manifestations
of exclusive partiality that naturally wounded the elder
brother. He then announced an engagement that he had
made with Mrs. Ledwich for a musical evening the next
week Averil had her harmonium at her tongue's end, but
the evening was a free one, chosen on purpose to accommodate
her ; she had no excuse, and must submit.


*' And practise some of your best pieces, Ave," said Henry.
"Mrs. Pugh was kind enough to offer to come and get up
some duets with you."

" I am greatly obliged," said Averil, drily, " but I do not
play duets."

"You would do wisely to accept her kindness," argued
Henry. " It would be a great advantage to you to be intimate
with a lady of her opportunities."

" I do not like patronage," said Averil.

" Ave ! Ave ! " cried the children, who had been trying to
attract her attention, "if you will let us go to Laburnum
Grove by twelve o'clock to-morrow, Mrs. Pugh will show us
her book of the pretty devices of letters, and teach us to
make one."

" You vaW have not finished lessons by twelve."

"But if we have?"

" ^0, certainly not ; I can't have you bothering every one
about that nonsensical fashion."

"You shaU go, my dears," said Henry. "I can't think
why your sister should be so ill-natured."

Averil felt that this was the way to destroy her authority,
and though she kept silence, the tears were in her eyes, and
her champion broke forth, " How can you be such a brute,

" Come away, my dears," said Averil, rising, and holding
out her hands to her sisters, as she recollected how bad the
scene was for them ; but it was only Minna who obeyed the
call, Ella hung about Henry, declaring that Leonard was
naughty, and Ave was cross.

"Well," shouted Leonard, "I shan't stay to see that child


set against her sister ! I wonder what you mean lier to come
to, Henry]"

It was no wonder that Minna and Ella squabbled together
as to which was cross, Henry or Averil, and the spirit of party
took up its fatal abode in the house of Bankside.



** Too oft my anxious eye has spied

That secret grief thou fain wouldst hide —
The passing pang of humbled pride. "


The winter was gay, between musical evenings, cliildren's
parties, clerical feastings of district visitors, soirees for Sunday-
school teachers, and Christmas-trees for their scholars. Such
a universal favourite as Harry, with so keen a relish for
amusement, was sure to fall an easy prey to invitations ; but
the rest of the family stood amazed to see him accompanied
everywhere by Tom, to whom the secular and the rehgious
dissipations of Stoneborough had always hitherto been equally
distasteful. Yet he submitted to a Christmas course of music,
carpet-dances, and jeux de societe on the one hand, and on the
other conferred inestimable obligations on the ecclesiastical
staff by exhibitions of his microscope and of some of the
ornamental sports of chemistry.

" The truth is," was the explanation privately dropped
out to Ethel, " that some one really must see that those two
don't make fools of themselves."

Ethel stared ; then, coming to the perception who " those
two" meant, burst out laughing, and said, "My dear Tom,



I beg your pardon, Lut, on tlie whole, I think that is more
likely to befall some one else."

Tom held his head loftily, and would not condescend to
understand anything so foolish.

He considered Bankside as the most dangerous quarter,
for Harry was enraptured with Miss Ward's music, extolled
her dark eyes, and openly avowed her attraction ; but there
were far more subtle perils at Laburnum Grove. The fair
widow was really pretty, almost elegant, her weeds becoming ;
and her disposition so good, so religious, so charitable, that,
with her activity, intelligence, and curate-worship, she was
a dangerous snare to such of mankind as were not sensible
of her touch of pretension. As to womankind, it needed a
great deal of submissiveness to endure her at all ; and this
was not Averil Ward's leading characteristic.

In fact, the ubiquity of Mrs. Pugh was a sore trial to that
young lady, just so superior herself as to detect the flimsiness
of the widow's attainments. It was vexatious to find that
by means of age, assum23tion, and position, these shallow
accomplishments made a prodigious show in the world, while
her own were entirely overlooked. She thought she despised
the admiration of the second-rate world of Stoneborough, but
it nettled her to see it thus misplaced ; and there was some-
thing provoking in the species of semi-homage paid in that
quarter by the youths of the May family.

As to the sailor, Averil frankly liked him very much ;
he was the pleasantest young man, of the most open and
agreeable manners, who had ever fallen in her way. He was
worthy to be Mary's brother, for he was friendly to Leonard,
and to herself had a truthfully flattering way that was
delightful "Without any sentiment in the case, she always


felt disappointed and defrauded if she Tvere prevented from
having a conversation with him ; and when this happened,
it was generally either from his heing seized upon by
Mrs. Pugh, or from her being baited by his brother Tom.

Averil was hard to please, for she was as much annoyed
by seeing Tom May sitting courteous and deferential by the
side of IMrs. Pugh, as by his attentions to herself. She knew
that he was playing the widow off, and that, when most
smooth and bland in look and tone, he was inwardly chuck-
ling ; and to find the identical politeness transferred to
herself made her feel not only affronted but insulted by
being placed on the same leveL Thus, when at a ^'reunion"
at Laburnum Grove, she had been looking on with intense
disgust while Tom was admiring Mrs. Pugh's famous book
of devices from letters, translating the mottoes, and pro-
mising contributions, the offence was greatly increased by
his coming up to her (and that too just as Harry was released
by the button-holding Mr. Grey) and saying,

" Of course you are a collector too, Miss Ward ; I can
secure some duplicates for you."

She hoard such fooleries ? She have Mrs. Pugh's dupli-
cates? JS'o wonder she coldly answered, "My little sister
has been slightly infected, thank you, but I do not care for
such things."

" Indeed ! "Well, I always preserve as many as I can, as
passports to a lady's favour."

''That depends on how much sense the lady has," said
Averil, trusting that this was a spirited set down.

" You do not consider. Philosophically treated, they
become a perfect school in historical heraldry, nay in
languages, in mathematical drawing, in illumination," said

M 2


Tom, looking across to the album in whicli Mrs. Pugli's
collection was enshrined, each device appropriately framed
in bright colours. His gravity was intolerable. Was this
mockery or not ? However, as answer she must, she said,

"A very poor purpose for which to learn such things, and
a poor way of learning them."

"True," said Tom, "one pastime is as good as another;
and the less it pretends to, the better. On the whole, it
may be a beneficial outlet for the revival of illumination."

Did this intolerable person know that there was an
" illuminator's guide" at home, and a great deal of red, blue,
and gold paint, with grand designs for the ornamentation of
Eankside chapell Whether he knew it or not, she could
not help answering, "Hlumination is desecrated by being
used on such subjects."

"And is not that better than the subjects being desecrated
by the illumination ?"

Mrs. Pugh came to insist on that " sweet thing of Mendels-
sohn's" from her dear Miss Ward ; and Averil obeyed, not
so glad to escape as inflamed by vexation at being prevented
from fighting it out, and learning what he really meant;
though she was so far used to the slippery nature of his
arguments as to know, that it was highly improbable that
she should get at anything in earnest.

" If his sisters were silly, I should not mind," said she to
Leonard ; " then he might hold all women cheap from
knowing no better ; but when they like sensible things, why
is every one else to be treated like an ape V

" Never mind," said Leonard, " he sneers at everybody aU
alike ! I can't think how Dr. May came to have such a son,
or how Aubrey can run after him so."


" I should like to know whether they really think it irre-
verent to do illuminations."

'* l!^onsense, Ave ; why should you trouble yourself about
what he says to teaze you 1 bad luck to him ! "

Nevertheless Averil was not at ease till she had asked
Mary's opinion of illumination, and Mary had referred to
Ethel, and brought back word that all depended on the
spirit of the work ; that it was a dangerous thing, for mere
fashion, to make playthings of texts of Scripture ; but that
no one could tell the blessing there might be in dwelling on
them with loving decoration, or having them placed where
the eye and thought might be won by them. In fact, Ethel
always hated fashion, but feared prejudice.

The crown of the whole carnival was to be the Abbotstoke
entertainment on the enrolment of the volunteers. Prepa-
rations went on with great spirit, and the drill sergeant had
unremitting work, the target little peace, and Aubrey and
Leonard were justly accused of making fetishes of their
rifles. The town was frantic, no clothes but uniforms could
be had, and the tradesmen forgot their customers in the
excitement of electing officers.

Averil thought it very officious of Mrs. Pugh to collect
a romantic party of banner-working young ladies before the
member's wife or the mayo/s family had authorized it ; and
she refused to join, both on the plea of want of time, and
because she heard that Mr. Eivers, a real dragoon, declared
colours to be inappropriate to riflemen. And so he did ; but
his wife said the point was not martial correctness, but
popular feeling ; so Mary gratified the party by bringing her
needle, Dr. Spencer took care the blazonry of the arms of the
old abbey was correct, and Flora asked the great lady of the


county to present the banner, and gave the invitation to
Mrs. Pugh, who sighed, shook her head, dried her eyes, and
said something about goodness and spirits ; and Mrs. Eivers
professed to understand, and hope Mrs. Pugh would do
exactly as best suited her.

Was this manoeuvring, or only living in the present 1
Mary accompanied Harry for a long day of shopping in
London when he went to re^Dort himself, starting and
returning in the clouds of night, and transacting a prodigious
amount of business with intense delight and no fatigue ; and
she was considered to have fitted out the mayor's daughters
suitably with his municipal dignity, of which Ethel piqued
herself on being proud.

The entertainment was not easy to arrange at such a
season, and Blanche's " experience," being of early autumn,
was at fault ; but Flora sent for all that could embellish her
conservatories, and by one of the charities by which she
loved to kill two birds with one stone, imported a young
lady who gained her livelihood by singing at private concerts,
and with her for a star, supported by the Minster and
Cathedral choirs, hoped to get up sufficient music to occupy
people till it should be late enough to dance. She still had
some diplomacy to exercise, for Mrs. Ledwich suggested
asking dear Ave Ward to sing, her own dearest Matilda
would not object on such an occasion to assist the sweet
girl ; and Mrs. Eivers, after her usual prudent fashion,
giving neither denial nor assent, Mrs. Ledwich trotted off,
and put Averil into an agony that raised a needless storm
in the Bankside house ; Leonard declaring the request an
insult, and Henry insisting that Ave ought to have no
scruples in doing anything Mrs. Pugh thought proper to


be done. And finally, when Ave rushed with her despair
to Mary May, it was to be relieved at finding that Mrs,
Rivers had never dreamt of exposing her to such an

Though it was the year 1860, the sun shone on the
great day, and there were exhilarating tokens of spring,
singing birds, opening buds, sparkling drops, and a general
sense of festivity ; as the grey and green began to flit about
the streets, and while Mr. Mayor repaired to the Town Hall
to administer the oaths to the corps, his unmartial sons and
his daughters started for the Grange to assist Flora in the
reception of her guests.

The Lord Lieutenant's wife and daughters, as well as the
Ernescliflfes, had slept there, and Ethel found them all with
Flora in the great hall, which looked like a "winter garden,
interspersed with tables covered with plate and glass, where
eating and drinking might go on all day long. But Ethel's
heart sank within her at the sight of Flora's haggard face and
sunken eyes. " What is the matter 1 " she asked Blanche, an
image of contented beauty.

" Matter ? Oh, they have been stupid in marking the
ground, and Hector is gone to see about it. That's all. He
is not at all tired."

" I never supposed he was," said Ethel ; "but what makes
Flora look so ill?"

" Oh, that tiresome child has got another cold, and fretted
half the night. It is all their fault for giving way to her ;
and she has done nothing but whine this whole morning
because she is not well enough to go out and see the practice !
I am sure it is no misfortune that she is not to come down
and be looked at."


Ethel crossed over to Flora, and asked whether she should
go up and see little Margaret.

" I should be so thankful," said poor Flora ; " but don't
excite her. She is not at all well, and has had very little

Ethel ran up-stairs, and found herself in the midst of a
fight between the governess and Margaret, who wanted to go
to the draughty passage window, which she fancied had a
better view than that of her nursery. Luckily, Aunt Ethel
was almost the only person whom Margaret did not like to
see her naughty ; and she subsided into a much less
objectionable lamentation after Uncle Harry and his anchor
buttons. Ethel promised to try whether he could be foimd,
and confident in his good nature, ran down, and boldly cap-
tured him as he was setting out to see Hector's operations.
He came with a ready smile, and the child was happy
throughout his stay. Flora presently stole a moment's visit,
intending her sister's release as well as his ; but Ethel, in
pity to governess as well as pupil, declared the nursery
window to be a prime post of observation, and begged to be
there left.

Margaret began to believe that they were very snug there,
and by the time the bugles were heard, had forgotten her
troubles in watching the arrivals.

Up came the grey files, and Ethel's heart throbbed and
her eye glistened at their regular tread and military bearing.
Quickly ]\[argaret made out papa ; but he was too real a
soldier to evince consciousness of being at his own door,
before the eyes of his wife and daughter ; and Aubrey's
young face was made up in imitation of his impassiveness.
Other eyes were less under control, and of these were a


brown pair that wandered restlessly, till tliey were raised to
the nursery window, and there found satisfaction.

The aunt and niece were too immediately above the terrace
to see what passed upon it, nor could they hear the words ;
so they only beheld the approach of the Ensign, and after a
brief interval, his return with the tall green silk colours,
with the arms of the old abbey embroidered in the comer
and heard the enthusiastic cheer that rang out from all the

Then the colours led the way to the ground for practice,
for manoeuvres were as yet not ready for exhibition. Almost
all the gentlemen followed ; and such ladies as did not
object to gunpowder or damp grass, thither betook them-
selves, guided by the ardent !Mrs. Ernescliffe. Having dis-
posed of the others in the drawing-rooms and gardens, Flora
and her father came to the nursery, and Ethel was set at
liberty to witness the prowess of her young champions, being
assured by Mora, that she would be of more use there in
keeping the youthful population out of danger than in enter-
taining the more timid in the house.

She slipped out and hurried down a narrow path towards
the scene of action, presently becoming aware of four figures
before her. which her glass resolved into Harry and Tom, a
lady in black, and a child. Evidently the devoted Tom was
keeping guard over one of the enchantresses, for the figure
was that of Averil Ward, though, as Ethel said, shaking
hands, she was hardly to be known with only 07ie sister.

" We have been delayed," said Averil ; " poor little Ella
was in an agony about the firing, and we could not leave her
till your brother" — indicating Harry — "was so kind as to
take her to Gertrude."


" True to the Englishwoman's boast of never having seen
the smoke of an engagement," said Tom.

" A practising is not an engagement/' said EtheL

"There may be quite as many casualties," quoth Tom,
indulging in some of the current ready-made wit on the
dangers of volunteering, for the pure purpose of teazing ;
but he was vigorously fallen upon by Harry and Ethel, and
Averil brightened as she heard him put to the rout. The
shots were already heard, when two more black figures were
seen in the distance, going towards the gate.

" Is that Kichard 1 " exclaimed Tom.

" Ay, and I do believe, the Avidow ! " rejoined Harry.

" Oh, yes," said Averil. " I heard her talking about
Abbotstoke Church, and saying how much she wished to see
ii. She must have got Mr. May to show it to her."

Ethel, who had no real fears for Richard herself, looked
on amused to watch how the guardian spirit was going to

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe trial: More links of the daisy chain (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 21)